THE owners of a popular Morpeth chocolate shop and cafe have praised customers and staff after deciding to close.
Lynn and Stephen Oxley, both 46, had opened up Oxley’s of Morpeth in Chantry Place four years ago but it was flooded along with their house in Middle Greens in September 2008.
They moved into Sanderson Arcade and started trading from its opening day in November 2009, although this included the option to break from the lease after two years if the demands of the business was affecting their family.
And the couple who have four children — 19-year-old Lauren who is studying midwifery at Cambridge University, Matthew, 13, and 11-year-old twins Lily and Samuel — decided to take it up earlier this year and the store closed its doors last week.
All the remaining cake orders will be made from their home, which they returned to in October 2009.
Mrs Oxley said: “We don’t regret having the shop in the Arcade.
“Being in such a location allowed us to be part of the town centre community and it was a real privilege to have that experience.
“All of the cakes and 90 per cent of the chocolate were made in the shop and it wasn’t enough for staff to simply serve people in the cafe. Our aim was for customers to enjoy their visit to Oxley’s.
“But I’m now looking forward to being at home with the children during school holidays and not having to arrange childcare.
“The kids love the shop but we want them to have lots of family memories too. In the run-up to Christmas last year we were working as late as 2am and Lauren, who helped us out a lot, is now at university.
“The response from customers has been really positive and the strength of it took us by surprise.
“We have also been blessed with excellent staff, including some brilliant young people from King Edward VI School who really understood what customer service is all about. The majority of them have found employment elsewhere and we wish them well.
“I do love teaching chocolate making and sugarcraft and there was plenty of demand for the sessions I did at the shop, but I’m not sure what I’m going to do next and I certainly won’t be making any sudden decisions.”
After discovering that she had a talent for making tasty treats and cakes in an evening class, Mrs Oxley set up her own business from home with the support of her husband in 2003.
After selling goods in the Chantry for a couple of years, they opened the outlet in Chantry Place in 2007.
Mrs Oxley is a member of the Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade and is hopeful that independent retailers will continue to do well in the town.
“These are very difficult times at the moment, with independent shops having to deal with big retail parks across the region,” she said.
“But Morpeth is in a better place than many other market towns we have visited across the country as it still has a vibrant mix of shops and traders.
“And we have a Chamber of Trade that fights hard to protect the town from out-of-town developments and also contributes to things like the Christmas Lights and Morpeth’s Northumbria in Bloom entry.”